A bald, bespectacled Jewish man stands in the middle of a Los Angeles street, shouting at a person hurrying past. A jaunty theme tune swells.
The angry bald man is Larry David, multimillionaire co-creator of Seinfeld, and in Curb Your Enthusiasmhe plays a fictionalised version of himself, a man who struggles to let a day pass without starting an argument. One can only hope the fiction outweighs the fact.
Each episode is a series of brilliantly improvised scenes in which “Larry” battles to assert his rights against everyone, from his long-suffering wife Cheryl (the wonderful Cheryl Hines) to his famous friends Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen (themselves).
Seinfeld was a “show about nothing”; Curb also toys with minutiae. Who cares if the singular of scissors isn’t scissor? Larry cares. Yet his idiosyncratic worldview is not restricted to syntax. Curb also delights in smashing a whole range of taboos.
Larry doesn’t worry about doing the appropriate thing, he just does as he pleases. Why not invite a sex offender to a Passover feast? Or pretend to have learning difficulties to test people’s liberal credentials? According to Larry David — the real one — no subject can be off-limits.
Even when he tries to do the right thing, he does it wrongly. Social blunder follows colossal faux pas until you’re either rolling on the floor laughing, hiding behind your hands in embarrassment, or both.
Curb provides a skewed view of a rarefied LA, and it’s tempting to see Larry as a cynical New Yorker adrift in La-La Land. But really he is an alien, fighting the social conventions of humanity itself.
So why does such an obnoxious man appeal? Perhaps he voices something in all of us, that rage at the frustrations of mundane life. He is our id writ large. Let him shout in the street for you.
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